Air Force rape case tossed out (8/08/03)
By PAM ZUBECK- THE GAZETTE
Charges against an Air Force officer accused of raping an academy
cadet last year have been withdrawn.
The decision, disclosed Thursday, could reflect the difficulty
prosecuting 'he said, she said' cases - those with no physical
evidence, witnesses or injuries, said Frank Spinner, the NORAD
officer's defense attorney.
It also could explain why some academy sex-crime cases haven't
seen the inside of a courtroom, Spinner said.
Second Lt. Ronen M. Segal said in a statement he is "relieved"
21st Space Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Duane Deal followed the
investigating officer's recommendation to drop charges of rape,
forcible sodomy and dereliction of duty by providing alcohol to a
The decision ends the case, although Deal could impose
nonjudicial punishment for dereliction of duty, which was
recommended by the investigating officer.
Spinner said Segal "looks forward to serving his country and is
prepared to fulfill his educational commitment by pursuing an Air
The woman who accused Segal could not be reached for comment.
According to testimony at a July 15 evidentiary hearing, Segal
drove the freshman, then 18, to his apartment last August and
offered her wine. She drank roughly six glasses.
Segal led her to the bedroom where they had sex. The woman said
her drunkenness caused her to float in and out of consciousness.
She later told her boyfriend about it and had sex with him the
same night. She reported the incident to investigators Jan. 29 after
her grades and military performance slipped, which she attributed to
In his recommendation, investigating officer Army Col. William
Sells Jr. said the woman was capable of giving or withholding
consent and "did not in any way object to or resist" sex.
Although consensual sodomy was a crime under the Uniform Code of
Military Justice, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling has placed that
in doubt, Spinner said, and the sodomy charge was withdrawn pending
a legal review.
Segal's case has been of interest because it involved a cadet but
was handled by the post where the officer was serving, Peterson Air
The academy's handling of sexual assault cases is under
investigation after dozens of women claimed academy officials
dismissed their sexual assault reports - claims that have grabbed
headlines and Congress' attention and spawned four inquiries.
"It clearly demonstrates there are circumstances where a female
cadet believes she was raped but under the law it doesn't even meet
the probable cause standard," Spinner said. "It shows the challenges
commanders face in trying to resolve these kinds of claims."
Spinner said the case also renews debate over why the academy has
ordered the court-martial of a cadet charged with rape in a similar
Douglas L. Meester, 20, is accused by a freshman no longer at the
academy of raping her at a dormitory tequila party.
The woman, whose January letter to Pentagon and academy officials
prompted the investigations, told investigators she could see why
Meester thought the sex was consensual.
She testified she never resisted or said "no," but that the six
or seven shots of tequila impaired her consciousness.
The investigating officer recommended against court-martial, and
a staff judge advocate said jurors likely would not convict on rape
Yet on June 30, academy Commandant Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, part
of a new regime installed as a result of the scandal, called for a
Meester's government attorneys didn't comment on the Segal
decision, but Spinner said it could be used to support an unlawful
command influence allegation.
Air Force Secretary James Roche and Chief of Staff Gen. John
Jumper have said offenders will be dealt with harshly, but the Air
Force has denied interference, saying such claims can be raised at
Meester has asked for permission to resign instead of being put
on trial, a request only the secretary can grant. He's also asked
academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr. to reconsider Weida's
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